Senate passes overhaul of No Child Left Behind
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The Senate on Thursday passed an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law, an action that senators on both sides of the aisle agreed was long overdue. 

Senators voted 81-17 to pass the Every Child Achieves Act, which transfers more decision-making power to state and local authorities. 

While No Child Left Behind was passed under former President George W. Bush, the weeklong debate in the Senate over changes to the law was among the least divisive of Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban It's not 'woketivism,' it's good business MORE’s (R-Ky.) six-month tenure as majority leader.

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He touted the legislation as the latest example that his party has been able to get the Senate working again ahead of the 2016 elections.

"The pundits told us it would never happen. Republicans and Democrats will never agree on a way to replace No Child Left Behind, they said. But a new Senate that’s back to work is proving them wrong," McConnell said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who spearheaded the bill, repeatedly thanked Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison White House races clock to beat GOP attacks MORE (D-Nev.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Schumer kicks into reelection mode Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (D-Wash.) for their cooperation.

"He's helped to create an environment that permitted this to move in an orderly fashion," he said, thanking Reid again Thursday ahead of the vote.

Education Secretary Arne DuncanArne Starkey DuncanProviding the transparency parents deserve Everyone's talking about a national tutoring corps; here's what we need to know to do it well More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden's stimulus plan MORE called the passage of the Senate bill "progress," but added that it "should also do more to maintain focus on what matters most.”

"This bill still falls short of truly giving every child a fair shot at success by failing to ensure that parents and children can count on local leaders to take action when students are struggling to learn," he added.

But the legislation wasn't without controversy.

Reid threatened earlier this week that Democrats would block the bill unless they were granted more amendment votes.

"We are not going to allow cloture to succeed unless we have a pathway forward on these amendments," he said on Monday evening.

Alexander was able to get a deal on allowing for dozens of additional amendments, many from Democrats.

Reid did fire a closing salvo Thursday, saying that the Senate could have passed an overhaul years ago if Republicans had cooperated. 

A group of conservative Republicans, including presidential contender Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban 'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party Is the antidote to bad speech more speech or more regulation? MORE (R-Texas), had pushed to use the legislation to crack down on "sanctuary cities" in the wake of the recent killing of Kathryn Steinle. The suspect in the shooting of the 32-year-old is an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. 

Had Cruz’s gambit succeeded, it would have threatened Democratic support and likely derailed the bill. 

Republican Sens. Cruz, Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard Paul15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle MORE (Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference MORE (Fla.), who are running for president, as well as Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri Republicans eying Senate bids to hold fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago Guilfoyle named as national chair of Greitens' Senate campaign in Missouri The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring MORE (Mo.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOn The Money: Inflation rears its head amid spending debate | IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting T | Restaurants fret labor shortage IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion Trump faces test of power with early endorsements MORE (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFive reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Apple approves Parler's return to App Store | White House scales back response to SolarWinds, Microsoft incidents | Pressure mounts on DHS over relationship with Clearview AI 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban Apple approves Parler's return to App Store MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate aims to pass anti-Asian hate crimes bill this week Trump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle MORE (Kansas), James Risch (Idaho), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBass 'hopeful' on passing police reform: 'Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Tim Scott to participate in GOP event in Iowa MORE (S.C.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE (La.) bucked McConnell to vote against the bill.

The 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which included a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, expired in 2007. Congress has not passed legislation to extend it since then.

Supporters of the Senate bill said the overhaul gets rid of the teach-to-the-test mentality that they argue has dominated public schools since No Child Left Behind's inception.

The legislation also includes updates from dozens of senators in reaction to recent events. 

For example, a provision from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision Progressives put Democrats on defense Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal MORE (D-Va.) would require schools that receive federal funding to report what they are doing to educate students about safe relationships. 

The measure comes after Kaine met with a group at the University of Virginia in the wake of now debunked Rolling Stone article about rape at the university. 

The bill now heads to a conference with House lawmakers, who passed a more conservative overhaul earlier this month. 

Alexander tried to downplay any potential conflict. 

"I've had numerous discussions with Chairman Kline," he said. "We know better than to try to make our institutions to do the same thing. ... There's some important differences and we'll have to work those out." 

Even if lawmakers are able to reconcile the bill, it's unclear if President Obama will sign it, with the administration expressing opposition to both the House and Senate bills.

This story was last updated at 5:12 p.m.